Experiencing Immigration in the Trump Era – PART II
The PERM labor certification process for employment-based green cards is also being reviewed for fraud prevention, with the Trump administration encouraging the Department of Labor (DOL) to step up its enforcement measures against employers who underpay foreign workers. However, the DOL does not have the requisite resources to be able to adequately address any policy proposals that come down from the White House, and as of yet, processing times and audit rates for PERM applications have not seen any significant increase. For now, it is business as usual for filings with the DOL, but if Congress increases its funding in an upcoming appropriations bill, we could see intensified screening of applications and more site visits.
Meanwhile, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has intensified its scrutiny given to all filings, from I-140 immigrant visa petitions to work card extensions. The agency is reviewing cases more closely, which has increased the number of requests for evidence (RFEs) issued. This, in turn, increases average processing times for all applications. Several forms have been revamped to collect more information on each applicant. Site visits for H, L, and R visas are up as well. Of course, these actions require more money and time for each case filed, and we should expect the agency to demand increased funding to better support these actions.
The admission of refugees has been limited over the past seven months as well. The expedited processing of illegal entries has precluded some Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) refugees from filing asylum claims, and the travel ban included a temporary halt to Syrian refugees. It is no secret that President Trump wants to reduce the overall number of refugees accepted into the U.S. on an annual basis. To be fair, the U.S. policy on processing and accepting refugees is not above scrutiny – our program needs to be constantly evaluated to ensure that it is both safe and accomplishing its purpose. But the proposal to reduce refugee admissions comes at a time when the number of displaced persons is rising worldwide. Refugees, especially from Syria, are likely to find the process more laborious and take more as we move forward.
In all, it is an increasingly difficult time for immigrants, immigration lawyers and immigration advocates. Most of what the administration is doing is within the bounds of the law and will be difficult to challenge in the federal courts. That means that tough enforcement is the status quo for a while and the U.S. immigration community needs to react accordingly. Pro-immigration advocates must find ways to resist restrictive policy and mean-spirited practices that ultimately hurt American businesses and communities.
Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org